Health & Safety Incentive Programs: to Incentivize or Not to Incentivize?

Health & Safety Incentive Programs: to Incentivize or Not to Incentivize?

03rd February 2020

With the aim of reducing the frequency of accidents in the workplace, different organisations have certain health & safety obligations that they strive to abide by. This also helps promote health & safety culture that encourages workers to be more motivated to work safely. Health & Safety incentive programs have attracted different arguments of whether it’s worth investing in or not. Read on to learn some of the arguments and, hopefully, make a decision whether to invest in them or not. 

The Argument for H & S Incentives

Most workers are usually more willing to perform a certain task when they know they’ll get something out of it. Exponents of the theory such as the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) believe it’s more effective to award workers for good behaviour than to punish them for bad behaviour. Different kinds of incentive schemes have proven to be a highly valuable health & safety component strategy in the past. They make people want to contribute more and more towards achieving the set goals. In fact, they can lead to increased safety levels and higher morale among employees. Such incentives can come as one-off prizes, safety raffles, charity donations, and gift vouchers/cash prizes. 

The Argument against H & S Incentives

The opponents of H & S incentives argue that the focus gets to shift from what should be just a means (the incentive) to the detriment of the actual end (the safe result). This means that the workers tend to concentrate on the reward too much that their performance drops and gets worse. So, instead of adding to their productivity, the reward becomes counterproductive or even outright damaging. They can actually make the workforce act less safely. It will, therefore, make no tangible difference to how safe their workplace or behaviour is. 

The accidents may seem fewer just because most employees will hardly report the injuries - they tend to act unethically, cheat and think in the short-term because of the desire to achieve the reward. Other disadvantages of such incentives include:

●    The victim may be ostracized by co-workers for ruining the safety record. 
●    The incentive has to get better with time for better results.
●    Implementing the program requires more time and resources. 

So, to Incentivize or Not to Incentivize?

Incentives can be a great idea. But you’ll need a properly developed program that’s beneficial to the wellbeing of your workers with no negative unintended consequences. So, if your organisation is willing to invest time and resources into developing such a plan, you can consider giving a chance to safety incentives. Besides, the paycheck can be a worthy incentive for the employees. Try to find a balance. The reward shouldn’t be too large as this could encourage the workers to hide injuries just to benefit from the incentive, and it shouldn’t be too small as it may not have a positive effect on your workforce. You may also introduce punishment for failure to report. 

But if implementing the program will bring more harm than good (or when the outcome is unsure), then it’s safe to avoid the incentive altogether. Instead, focus on implementing other effective health and safety strategies such as introducing plant platforms in strategic points, leading indicators, participation in incident investigations and training sessions.